The Arcadia Institute

Making it possible for people with disabilities to be welcomed, supported and respected in their community

Entries for May 2011

Kalamazoo County 4H Perspective

This week the blog was written by John Burhans who directs the Kalamazoo County 4H.

Kalamazoo County 4-H had the opportunity to have Allison Hammond and Hyun Berkley from the Arcadia Institute come and train the leaders on situations they may encounter with youth. We learned ways to support youth who may have disabilities. Following the training, a common theme voiced was it was worth the time and each leader got something out of it. Now Kalamazoo County 4-H is looking for ways to connect with all youth and welcome them within the program.

Other things that rang out throughout the training were the activities or things we learned could be incorporated with all youth. The interpersonal skills the youth could develop would benefit them and a lot of the resources could be used with “over-enthusiastic” youth to keep them centered and focused. We hope that our partnership with Arcadia Institute and Kalamazoo County 4-H continues to grow.

The Just Right Fit

Carrie is a woman who is quite independent. She loves to take the bus to the store, the library and even the museum. She told us that she wanted to play Bingo. We found a place that would be convenient for her to use the bus to go play, but we encouraged her “check out” the place first.

For an inexperienced Bingo player it is a complicated game that moves really fast. Avid Bingo players are not there to socialize. In fact if you talk during a game you are quickly and firmly shushed!

After a couple times at this Bingo Hall, Carrie decided that that was not worth learning to how get there on the bus. Playing Bingo wasn’t what she had expected.

In conversation with Carrie, we learned that what she really wanted was a chance to meet new people and build a social network. She revealed that she had attended a nearby church several times. We contacted the church and learned that they have a women’s group that meets once a month. So we went with her to visit the women’s group. The women were very welcoming and now Carrie has been going regularly.

On a recent visit, to see how things are going – Carrie continues to attend church, goes to the women’s group and participates in some other church fellowship activities.

What we learned from this experience is that you have to continue to listen to find out what a person is really looking for in their community.

Blog from Philadelphia

This week the blog is by Allison Hammond, Community Participation Initiative Coordinator.

I was recently in Philadelphia for a conference where one is surrounded by the history of the beginnings of the United States of America. Just down the street from my hotel The Declaration of Independence was signed.

What does independence have to do with community participation? Everything. The rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are only realized by fully being part of one’s community.

Do people really experience these rights if they are told that because of a disability they only have options to be in special programs that actually exclude everyone else? Would you be happy if because of a certain condition or characteristic you only had a particular set of options for activities that are separate from your fellow citizens?

Through the Community Participation Initiative we support individuals to be part of their community not only by supporting the person, but also by supporting the community to welcome, support and respect all people.

You can find out more by contacting us here.

Hyun’s Perspective

This week the blog was written by Hyun Berkley, Community Participation Initiative Assistant.

My name is Hyun Berkley and I work at The Arcadia Institute as a Community Participation Assistant. The Arcadia Institute helps individuals with disabilities feel welcomed in the community. I do this by helping participants find meaningful activity. I have assisted participants singing in the community, attending Jaycees meeting, and volunteering.

Why do I do this? I know what it feels like to be misunderstood and excluded.

I am Korean American and oftentimes I am the only Asian person in the room. It is not unusual for people to make assumptions about me that are entirely wrong. They assume I am either adopted, a foreigner, Chinese or that I am married to another Asian person. My friends and family know that I was born in Korea but am now a US citizen and am married to a man of European descent.

Has anyone ever made assumptions about you that are entirely wrong?

People with disabilities face these challenges every day and everywhere they go. Too many people assume individuals with disabilities don’t have dreams, and a desire to contribute and be part of the community.

Do you know what would happen if we stopped making assumptions about people? We would get to know one another much better regardless of race, gender, cultural background or disabilities. And everyone would feel included in the community and have the opportunity to realize their dreams.

Community Membership: A Mutual Responsibility

This week’s blog was written by George Martin, President of The Arcadia Institute

The purpose of the Community Participation Initiative:

“Making it possible for people with disabilities to feel welcomed, supported and respected in their communities”

requires us to engage in the task of creating a ‘community of belonging’ for all people.

This is an inter-connected task in which working for the full inclusion of people with disabilities makes a good community better, and people with disabilities (and the organizations that support them) have a responsibility to make their community better.

We are called to support community agencies, local business, our neighborhoods. We have to become community builders for everyone. Only a good and strong community can provide the welcoming environment , support and respect that people with disabilities require and deserve.

Do you know someone who is a community building for everyone? Share someone’s story with us, please fill out the form here. We’ll be collecting responses until May 10th, so please take the time to recognize the people making a difference in the Kalamazoo community!